By Bailey N.
There’s no time like quarantine to get the travel bug and looking at last summer’s beach pics is not going to cut it. But no worries - we’ve found five national parks that are within a half day’s drive from Denver.
If the weekend is all the time you have for a little escape, then Rocky Mountain National Park needs to be your summer go-to. Only an hour and a half drive from Denver, the Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect place to spend a weekend away, without spending too much time on the road.
At the gateway of the Rocky Mountains is the charming little town of Estes Park, a perfect place to stop for some pre-hike caffeine or post-hike ice cream cones and famous taffy from the Original Taffy Shop (Definitely go check it out!)
Wyoming or Switzerland?! With a view of the Tetons erupting into the sky, you might not be able to tell the difference. Grand Teton National Park is a bit of a haul, located 8-9 hours from Denver in western Wyoming, but the drive is an easy straight shot across the plains! The Tetons are BOLD - no foothills here! These peaks are a paradise for skiers, climbers, and mountaineers. Bring along experienced friends to get up close and personal, or stick to the endless paths and rolling single track trails that follow the base of the mountains.
Not huge on intense physical activity? We get it. This National Park is home to the Snake River, which, as the name implies, curves and swerves along with the land below the Tetons for miles. It offers (in my opinion) the best way to see the peaks… by floating! Rent a paddleboard or kayak, and fill an extra tube with a cooler of drinks and snacks.
Take a trip to Yellowstone National Park to see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World for yourself. From Denver, this park is an eight and a half hour road trip, but you will not regret packing up the car for this final destination. The park is a volcanic home to unique hydrothermal pools and geysers. The most famous geyser, known fondly as Old Faithful, erupts up to 20 times per day. It shoots steaming water 90 to 180 feet into the air - a spectacle worth waiting for!
There are multiple entrances in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, making it easy to be mindful of social distancing. While you may not see them, you’ll also be socially distanced from a special family in Yellowstone, as it is inhabited by a population of wolves, a once endangered species that was reintroduced to the park in 1986 in a wildlife conservation project. Keep your eyes peeled for these guys and their bear and moose friends.
Canyonlands is the largest national park in Utah, and, oddly comfortingly, it also resembles mars. So this might be your spot if you’ve been looking to take a break from the crazy world we’ve been living in. This place is considered an “Island in the Sky” as it sits on top of a 1500 foot mesa. If you want to do a quick half mile hike while you are there, our recommendation is definitely the Mesa Arch Trail.
Six hours from Denver, Canyonlands is so massive that you could spend a full week here and never run out of things to see or hikes to take. We definitely recommend using a few more of your vacation days and stay a full week.
The Mesa Verde National Park sits in the culturally rich, Southwestern edge of Colorado. If you’re leaving from Denver, grab a bunch of your favorite binge-worthy snacks, a good Spotify-curated playlist, and some of your best friends to make this 7 and a half-hour drive the kick-off to a fun trip. While taking in the canyon views, you and your vacation squad may even see some endangered plant and animal species that have almost disappeared in the neighboring regions.
After a long and eventful day of exploring, staying the night in the park is easy to do! Whether you want to camp in a tent under the stars or rent a spacious RV, we recommend staying at the Morefield Campground! Before you make the trek home, consider letting your alarm wake you up at dawn to catch a breathtaking sunrise. A tranquil way to end an active trip in the outdoors!
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